5 Questions With Philip Yancey

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's Guest is one of my all-time favorite authors, Philip Yancey.

He is also an author I highly recommend.

Philip Yancey began his career as Editor of Campus Life Magazine. More than 15 million people have read his books since he was first published in 1977. His books have been translated into 35 languages. Philip explores the most basic questions and deepest mysteries of Christian faith and invites readers to join him on his journeys. His books have earned recognition including two Christian Book of the Year awards and 13 Gold Medallion awards.

And now without further delay, on to the questions:

Hello Philip,

Of all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

Yes, Soul Survivor is my favorite, because in it I wrote about 13 of my heroes, people (some dead, some living) who shaped my faith and had a profound effect on me. I recommend that exercise to everyone: to give serious thought to people who have helped formed you--more, people you want to follow as role models. Interestingly, my own favorite books are not necessarily the best sellers. I like Soul Survivor, The Gift of Pain, and Reaching for the Invisible God, none of which topped the sales charts. A writer seldom knows what will connect most strongly with readers.

2. What do you see is the difference between mercy and grace?

The classic distinction is between grace (getting what you don't deserve) and mercy (not getting what you do deserve). There's an element of truth. We believe that as God judges our behavior, much mercy is involved, and we don't get what we deserve. Grace goes further, lavishing on us God's forgiveness and love that go well beyond modifications of justice and turn upside down the laws of the universe. In my book, I coin the word Ungrace to describe the karma-like law of the jungle that applies in finance, nature, foreign policy, and so many places. Grace cuts right across that.

3. How do you balance grace and truth when it comes to issues of sin?

It's important to me to realize that I'm not the judge, God is. If I see someone engaging in behavior I disapprove of, my instinct is to declare myself, to feel superior, to point out the flaw in the other person. When I give in to that instinct, I become the Pharisee that Paul describes do well in Romans 2-3. I'm not the judge; more, my own judgmentalism may be worse than what I'm judging--after all, Paul's sense of superiority led him to torture Christians. My job is to love people of whom I morally disapprove. I let God worry about the balancing act; I'm incapable of that. Of course, there are roles we assume--youth director, pastor, employer, parent--which require us to make difficult choices between grace and truth because the role sets us up as a kind of judge. But in every day life I must remind myself that I'm called to present God's love to the undeserving. That God loves good people isn't Good News; it's old news you can find in every religion. The radical nature of grace expresses God's love for bad people.

4. Your most recent book, What Good is God, again asks the tough questions. Do you ever hesitate in verbalizing what many are probably afraid to say or ask?

I ask the questions I am struggling with. I never ask myself, What would readers like? Rather, I mull over what's been bothering me and when it approaches a boiling point I decide to write a book about it. That particular book came out of my experiences in six different countries in which what I believe is put to an extreme test: Mumbai India, for example, during the terrorist attacks, and the campus of Virginia Tech after the massacre. In places like that the question "What good is God?" naturally arises.

5. You have encouraged people around the world, who encourages you in your relationship with God?

My "pastors" are mostly books, by people like Eugene Peterson, Jurgen Moltmann, Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner. I look to them for inspiration and wisdom. My encouragers are my readers who write me or post comments on my website or on Facebook reminding me that I am not alone, that my efforts do make a difference, that we struggle together along a path, always seeing through a glass darkly, in hope of one day seeing the light face to face.

Well there you go. I would encourage you to check out all of Philip Yancey's books and to visit his website: philipyancey.com Philip Yancey is on Facebook as well!

To see past 5 Questions guests see 5 questions page under the tab above.


Anonymous said...

A mighty fine interview, Rick! I'm glad you were able to connect with Mr. Yancey. I really appreciate his comments about grace and truth (#3). The second question sounded familiar... =) Thanks! ~Stan

RDA said...

Thanks Stan. Figured you would recognize one of the questions!